The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Blugold baseball team looking to start a new chapter this season

Spirits are still high after season opening doubleheader loss to UW-Parkside
Brennan Cohen winds up a pitch on the mound. Photo by Jake Seykora from UWEC Photo used with permission

The UW-Eau Claire baseball team began their season with a doubleheader Thursday in Kenosha taking on UW-Parkside, a Division II school.

Both games would be close until the very end, with the Parkside Rangers pulling away with five runs in the eighth inning of game one, winning 9-5.

Game two would go into extra innings, as third-year Walter Johnson hit a double in the seventh to drive in two runs, giving the Blugolds a one point lead in the seventh. However, the Rangers would respond with a solo home run in the same inning tying things up. 

By the twelfth inning, the Rangers made contact with the ball, hitting a walk-off single to win the game 5-4

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For first-year head coach Patrick Reilly, there is still much enthusiasm within the team on where they stand at the beginning of the 2024 season. 

“It definitely shows our guys that we can compete with anybody,” Reilly said. “They did a really good job responding against a well-coached team.”

Off the field, there is still much support for the new coaching staff.

“The support has been very impressive, from athletic department staff to student athletes, to alums to families,” Reilly said. “Feeling supported by them through a coaching transition, it makes you feel better going to work every day.”

Amongst the brand new coaching staff is a plethora of experience both from within and beyond the community.   

Bob Johnson, the former head coach of the Eau Claire North High School baseball team whom he led to two WIAA Division I state championships in 2011 and 2019 and nine Big Rivers Conference championships, is among the staff.

Throughout his time as a high school coach, Johnson has had a combined twenty eight years of head coaching experience on the Freshman, Junior Varsity, and Varsity level. 

For Reilly, who served for thirteen years on the Winona State University coaching staff, having good assistant coaches does wonders for both appearances and leadership decisions.

“One thing I learned from my former coach at Winona State when I was coaching there, if you hire really good assistants you look really good as a head coach,” Reilly said. “Having [Johnson’s] guidance in the dugout is something that is going to help me make better decisions for our guys.”

For players such as second-year Austin Buck, these are welcome additions and changes.

“Coaches have been great so far,” Buck said. “They all work really hard, every single one of them, all five of our coaches have been really focused at practices, putting together great practice plans.”

Walter Johnson, who went three for six with two runs batted in game two, recognizes that clear communication can also do well in endearing one to a team.   

“Our new coaching staff is awesome, everyone is super locked in,” Johnson said. “Coach Reilly is just on top of everything and making sure we all know what’s going on for practice as well as game scheduling.”

Reilly said the goal for the team is to keep a mindset that is not preoccupied with the past. 

“We’re starting, in my opinion, fresh,” Reilly said.  “We’re going to give these guys a really good chance to be successful. We’re going to be super structured and we’re going to be really organized and, more than anything, we’re going to care about these guys as people too.”

The upcoming RussMatt Invitational in Florida this spring break serves to build further team chemistry.

“That’s something I’m excited about for our guys, is to get on the road, travel together, eat together, hang out together, go through the ups and downs,” Reilly said. 

Buck said the invitational, along with the nice weather, serves as further motivation to get the season’s first win.

“We’re going to get a lot of baseball in. There should be some nice weather which is always great,” Buck said. “It’s nice that we’re still hungry to win a game and to keep playing well.” 

The RussMatt Invitational starts Saturday, March 16 with a seven-inning doubleheader against Bard College in Auburndale, Florida.

Teske can be reached at [email protected].

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